To exorcise my worst fears about the coming decade, I chose to write a bleak chronicle of it.
If, by December 2030, developments have invalidated it, I hope such dreary prognoses will have played a part by spurring us to appropriate action.
Before our pandemic-induced lockdowns, politics seemed to be a game. Political parties behaved like sports teams having good or bad days, scoring points that propelled them up a league table that, at season’s end, determined who would form a government and then do next to nothing.
Then, the COVID-19 pandemic stripped away the veneer of indifference to reveal the political reality: some people do have the power to tell the rest of us what to do. Lenin’s description of politics as “who does what to whom” seemed more apt than ever.
By June 2020, as lockdowns began to ease, left-wing optimism that the pandemic would revive state power on behalf of the powerless remained, leading friends to fantasize about a renaissance of the commons and a capacious definition of public goods.
An authoritarian state was necessary to support markets controlled by corporations and banks. Those in authority have never hesitated to harness massive government intervention to the preservation of oligarchic power. Why should a pandemic change that?
Disempowerment breeds poverty, which ages people faster and, ultimately, readies them for the cull. In the shadow of falling prices, wages, and interest rates, it was never likely that the spirit of solidarity, which soothed our souls during lockdowns, would translate into the use of state power to strengthen the weak and vulnerable.
The disconnect between the financial world and the real world, in which billions struggled, inevitably widened. And with it grew the discontent that gave rise to the political monsters I was warning my left-leaning friends about.
As in the 1930s, in the souls of many, the grapes of wrath were growing heavy for a new, bitter vintage. In place of the 1930s soapboxes from which demagogues promised to restore dignity to the disgruntled masses, Big Tech provided apps and social networks perfectly suited for the task.
Once communities surrendered to the fear of infection, human rights seemed an unaffordable luxury. Big Tech developed biometric bracelets to monitor our vital data around the clock. In cahoots with governments, they combined the output with geolocation data, fed it all into algorithms, and ensured that the population received helpful text messages informing them what to do or where to go to stop new outbreaks in their tracks.